Q&A with Peter Bullock, The Black Dad Doula

Posted on June 12, 2024


ACNJ staff writer Keith Hadad, recently spoke with Peter Bullock, founder of Hey Black Dad, about his dad doula practice, what brought him to this line of work, and much more.

Peter Bullock is blazing a new path for dads and families across New Jersey with his doula work, Hey Black Dad. Through in-person and virtual sessions, Bullock assists men who are transitioning into fatherhood by educating them on how to best support their birthing partner through their prenatal and postpartum pregnancy journey.

Can you please explain what you do as a dad doula?

Peter Bullock: So becoming a parent and going into parenthood is a rite of passage. There have been unknown paths to becoming a father, dad, parent. As a birth and postpartum doula, I assist fathers with their journey through the different stages of pregnancy, labor and postpartum. I make sure that the dads have the tools necessary to be the best support partners.

How long have you been practicing and what led you down this path? What is your background in that field, and what kind of training or courses did you have to take?

Peter: I've been practicing for about three years now. When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, she was telling me about the different stats when it comes to moms and specifically black moms. The high rates of maternal mortality in the black community. I knew I really had to get involved and get informed about all the different things that I could do to be the best support I could be, but I couldn't find a lot of information that was specific to men. Information that was specific to things that I could do that could help. So I was like, alright, I'm sure it's out there, but let me learn about what a doula is and how doulas could be supportive. So I went and I got the information. We also had a doula throughout our journey. Then shortly after the birth of our child, I decided to go and get certified as a full spectrum doula. I was trained by Mama Shafi Monroe, SMC doulas, and then I was certified by Mama Alaina Broach of Ahavah Birth and Beyond.

When you were going through training, did you run into any opposition or were you met with any stigma?

Peter: No, it was very accepting of my work with fathers. A lot of the other doulas were very happy to hear that I chose to specifically work with fathers. It's necessary. There are a lot of questions that dads have and sometimes dads just don't know that they're not the only ones that have these questions.

Why do you think fathers need the support of a doula?

Peter: Up until recently, dads kind of weren't super hands-on when it came to childbirth, but now, due to societal norms changing and dads having more time to be present, we're able to be more present and hands-on. Fathers are being encouraged to have more participation throughout the different stages. We’re so much more hands-on—I call these the 21st century fathers—we're hands-on, we want to be helpful, we want to be supportive, but at the same time, we don't want to break anything. Dads are really eager to help and assist, but we don't want to break anything, [therefore] we take a backseat and kind of just allow things to unfold the way that they naturally would. We don't like to look like we don't know what we're doing. So we don't ask questions [for fear of looking silly].

A dad could benefit from having a doula by having the tools needed to really support their birthing partner. A male doula would be able to share with dad, “Hey, this is how you could help. These are some of the things that you could do. These are some of the questions that you could ask when you're working with your partner, while she is expecting.” Like I said, dads don't want to break anything.. So that's where I come in. I help dads to have that confidence when it comes to assisting [their birthing partner] and having [the necessary] confidence when it comes to speaking with the [medical] care providers.

For example, one of the things that I do is provide dad questions they can ask the different medical care providers. Not only are they questions, but they're also answers that they should be looking for from the providers. That is helping to give dads a little bit more confidence to ask these questions [because] they know what answers to look for. Now dad has a more hands-on role and is no longer going to be like a fixture in the back of the room. He has the ability to really support and to be present [in the moment]. That's one of the things that male doulas can help with. We can give dads the tools needed to be supportive, but also the confidence necessary to [feel empowered to be] that support.

How would a community at large benefit from fathers taking a more active and engaged role during pregnancy and labor in the earliest phases of parenthood?

Peter: Fathers being engaged as early as possible, and I mean super early, would result in fathers having a stronger relationship and bond with their families. We already know the statistics that show how present fathers could benefit the community. There's going to be a higher graduation rate, the community's safer and the families benefit from fathers being present. Making sure that dads have the tools needed to be supportive as early as possible would benefit the community at large.

You spoke about the challenges of the black maternal health system before. How do you hope that your work would mitigate those kinds of issues?

Peter: I want to make sure that the fathers that I work with [have the following]

  1. The tools to feel confident and be able to speak up and tactfully advocate for their spouse.
  2. For the maternal healthcare system to be able to hear fathers’ voices when they voice their concerns. I want the dads that I work with to know how to advocate, speak and also assist.

Do you know of any other dad doulas in the state?

Peter: In the State of New Jersey, I do not know of any active dad doulas who are presently assisting fathers. [However], I do know of some outside of New Jersey.

What steps or programs would you recommend to somebody if they are interested in becoming a dad doula themselves?

Peter: First I would encourage them to ask themselves what is it that attracts them to this work. Then I would encourage them to go out and seek a credible organization that supports, educates, provides the certification and training they need to become a doula. Also, if they're looking to do something in New Jersey, speak with me @HeyBlackDad. I'd be happy to help to support them along their journey.

If someone was about to become a dad and wanted to work with you, what steps should they take?

Peter: They can reach out to me on www.heyblackdads.com, where there's a submission form that they can fill out. Then we'll have a quick discovery call, for me to see the best ways to assist and what resources I could offer. They can also reach out to me on Instagram @HeyBlackDad.

Editorial Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. These edits do not affect the essence of the discussion or the accuracy of the information presented.